Jerusalem Chamber

The last week has been spent in refining and building the play before we start the tedious process of adding the technical elements.  We’ve had the luxury of going scene by scene, adjusting and exploring, and then running several scenes in sequence to get a sense of the build and flow. 

One of my favorite sets of scenes takes place in our Act II* and is set in the King’s chambers.  Even though I have very little to say in these scenes it’s quickly become one of my favorite moments in the play.  I think this has something to do with the really cool growth I’ve found with my character Westmoreland. 

When the scene starts the ailing King is lead into the chamber.  With him are his trusted councillor the Earl of Warwick as well as two of the four princes whom we get to meet in this play, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Thomas, Duke of Clarence.**  The King is worried about the impending succession and concerned about his errant son Prince Hal.  I arrive as Westmoreland and report the latest news of the rebellion in the north.  The king swoons and we depart the chamber to let him rest.  Throughout the ensuing scenes Hal arrives and he and his father proceed to work through their differences, each of them speaking some absolutely gorgeous text.  Prince Hal is portrayed by Brian Gill*** and Angela Iannone tackles the part of the King****.  They’re taking this scene to such beautiful heights, really delivering the languaue with relish and totally investing in the beautiful father son relationship that Shakespeare has given us.  It’s a treat to witness and I’m sad that soon I won’t be able to watch as I’m off stage for much of their dialogue.

My part in these scenes is largely to be in attendance as one of the King’s closest councillors and to be in place for the changing of the regime.  Being present in the scene has given me a lot of opportunites to think about what it’s like to be a participant in a history making moment, to be on hand for the death of one monarch while mentally preparing for the ascension of the next.  How do we focus on the death of the King, while not letting it seem like we’ve already moved on to the next King?  I’m reminded of the stories about Elizabeth I’s death and the change in regime to James I, the two monarchs that governed England during Shakespeare’s life*****.

The other interesting thing that I’ve learned about Westmoreland in these scenes is that I’m fed up with Hal and his shenanigans.  Westmoreland and Prince John of Lancaster have been in the north squelching a rebellion so that Hal can drink and gamble in London.  We’ve been endangering ourselves to preserve his crown.  He arrives full of sarcasm and his presence only serves to upset the already failing King.  So I’ve discovered that, as Westmoreland, I’ve become rather impatient with the Prince.  I’m pretty happy when Wayne T. Carr arrives as Prince John to see his father and assure his place in his father’s affections. 

Will the audience know my feelings about that scene or the choices I’ve made?  Maybe not.  It’s entirely possible that all of my thoughts about what’s happening will change before we open.  The point is that this goes back to what I’ve already stated about an actor needing to know what his character is feeling and what’s motivated him at a particular moment in the play.  To make a choice.  The audience may not be able to tell what choice I’ve made, but what they will see is someone who is believeable as a well-rounded human inhabiting the world of the play.

The other challenge with this scene has been to avoid making it the end of the play.  We have to keep the momentum up and to drive through until the real climax so that the audience can see how all of the characters fare by play’s end.  In many ways this scene represents the start of Henry V, but you’ll have to wait until next season for that one.

*SideBard:  Our Acts I and II are different than Shakespeare’s.  He has five acts but for our purposes we simply divide the play in two with an intermission between.  Our intermission takes place after Shakespeare’s Act III, scene 2.

**SideBard:  Ted Tyson portrays Warwick, DeRante Parker portrays Gloucester and Jack Swokowski portrays Clarence.

***SideBard:  Brian portrayed the rebel Hotspur with such aplomb in 1 Henry IV.

****SideBard:  Angela is indeed portraying the King, but as I’ve stated in a earlier entry there really is no high-falootin concept here.  As Susan has stated Angela just felt right for the part and I really think you’ll agree.

*****SideBard:  The story goes that, on her deathbed, Elizabeth I stood for two days before she consented to being put to bed, knowing that once she lay down she’d never rise.


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